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Impact of maternal obesity on placental transcriptome and morphology associated with fetal growth restriction in mice.

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de Barros Mucci, Daniela 
Kusinski, Laura C 
Wilsmore, Phoebe 
Loche, Elena 
Pantaleão, Lucas C 


BACKGROUND: In utero exposure to obesity is consistently associated with increased risk of metabolic disease, obesity and cardiovascular dysfunction in later life despite the divergence of birth weight outcomes. The placenta plays a critical role in offspring development and long-term health, as it mediates the crosstalk between the maternal and fetal environments. However, its phenotypic and molecular modifications in the context of maternal obesity associated with fetal growth restriction (FGR) remain poorly understood. METHODS: Using a mouse model of maternal diet-induced obesity, we investigated changes in the placental transcriptome through RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) at embryonic day (E) 19. The most differentially expressed genes (FDR < 0.05) were validated by Quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) in male and female placentae at E19. The expression of these targets and related genes was also determined by qPCR at E13 to examine whether the observed alterations had an earlier onset at mid-gestation. Structural analyses were performed using immunofluorescent staining against Ki67 and CD31 to investigate phenotypic outcomes at both timepoints. RESULTS: RNA-seq and IPA analyses revealed differential expression of transcripts and pathway interactions related to placental vascular development and tissue morphology in obese placentae at term, including downregulation of Muc15, Cnn1, and Acta2. Pdgfb, which is implicated in labyrinthine layer development, was downregulated in obese placentae at E13. This was consistent with the morphological evidence of reduced labyrinth zone (LZ) size, as well as lower fetal weight at both timepoints irrespective of offspring sex. CONCLUSIONS: Maternal obesity results in abnormal placental LZ development and impaired vascularization, which may mediate the observed FGR through reduced transfer of nutrients across the placenta.



Animals, Disease Models, Animal, Female, Fetal Growth Retardation, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Obesity, Maternal, Placenta, Pregnancy, Transcriptome

Journal Title

Int J Obes (Lond)

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC


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Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/M001636/1)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12012/4)
British Heart Foundation (RG/17/12/33167)
British Heart Foundation (None)
MRC (MC_UU_00014/5)
MRC (MC_UU_00014/4)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12012/5)
Medical Research Council (MC_PC_12012)
BBSRC-BB/M001636/1 MC_UU_12012/4)